To everyone who survived 2016 in more or less one piece: You deserve a drink. Each passing year seems especially intense right as we prepare for the next, the most news-worthy events still fresh, stinging wounds that have yet to heal. It’s the immediacy, the fact that we’re still so close to it all, that each lurid detail snaps to mind with painful clarity. That said, this one struck me as a particularly difficult slog, through all the losses, ugly politics, and general malaise that the entire world is still struggling to overcome.
Impossibly, inexplicably, some facets of these tragedies give me hope. The worst can also bring out the best in people, and I’ve seen some incredible acts of kindness, courage, and inspiration as a result. There’s still so much to celebrate, and I sure as hell am not going to let anyone stop me from moving forward with optimism, no matter the situation. The key here is community, supporting one another in the darkest of days, which is why my festive drink of the season is one made for a crowd.
Beets sound like a terrible idea for a cocktail, granted, but their natural sweetness and mellow earthy flavors ground the mixture in a comforting, satisfying way. Brighter citrus flavors lift up the taste buds, singing with unexpected harmony, elevated by the effervescence of champagne. The essential inspiration for the combination came from Stirrings, in the form of a challenge to use their mixers in new and innovative ways. This is my entry into the contest, and I’m looking forward to raising a glass with all of the other celebratory entries sure to come. You can keep up with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Stirrings can be found at Bevmo, Total Wines & More, Draegers, Mollie Stones, Hi Time Liquors, Pacific Ranch Market, Daniels Market, and Bristol Farms stores.
In the face of these challenges and unresolved, unsettling cliffhangers, I turn to 2017 and say: Bring it on. Do your worst. If we could manage this past year, we can tackle anything. So join me in raising a glass to celebrate the successes and failures alike, to move forward to a brighter New Year. After all, I have faith that with such perspective underneath our belts, it can only get better from here.
Beet to the Punch
1 Cup Stirrings Lemon Drop Cocktail Mix
3/4 Cup Golden Beet Juice*
2/3 Cup Orange Liqueur
3 Cups Hard Apple Cider
3 Cups Champagne or Sparkling White Wine
Spiralized Golden Beets, to Garnish (Optional)
*To make the beet juice without a juicer, start with at least 2 cups of raw, peeled golden beets. Chop them roughly and place them in a high-speed blender with just enough water to allow the blades to spin freely. Puree completely, until entirely smooth. Pass the resulting blend through a very fine-mesh sieve or nutmilk bag and extract as much liquid as possible. Discard or reserve the pulp for another use.
Combine all the ingredients in a large punch bowl with a ladle for guests to help themselves. Serve over ice. Garnish individual glasses with spiralized beets, if desired.
Makes 10 – 14 Servings
In a food paradise as diverse and accessible as Honolulu, it seems like a crime to even consider packing the standard “emergency” food that covers the standard range of granola bars and protein shakes. Vegan options exist almost anywhere you go, even where you’d least expect it. That’s why I was surprised by just how handy my little packets of Amazing Meal, made by powdered greens-pusher Amazing Grass, proved to be in no time at all.
Compared to my non-existent activity level at home, walking miles across town every day felt like training for the Olympics. Even with my voracious appetite for eating out, trying new restaurants, and cooking as much exotic produce I could get my hands on, I still found my energy levels dipping severely come midday. Rather than relying the standard quick fix from a cup of coffee, the Cafe Mocha superfood blend was genuinely revitalizing, and without any jitters of course. The vaguely greenish hue is the only hint of the goodness packed within each glass. Trust me, I won’t willingly drink any swampy protein powders that can only be described as tasting healthy at best, and it was no struggle to drain my cup. Head and shoulders above most dried greens blends even when mixed with only cold water, the light cocoa flavor gives way to a hint of coffee, very gently sweetened to round out the flavors. No, it’s not something you would mistake for a decadent milkshake, but it’s far tastier than most healthy powdered drinks on the market. For a quick energy infusion on the go, I’m very grateful to have these slim packets in my bag, just in case.
Two years after the first fight for vegan nog supremacy went down, the landscape of dairy-free, egg-free holiday beverages has finally shifted once more. The first change is not a happy one; it seems that the Earth Balance Soy Nog has thrown in the towel, bowing out of the game altogether. This would have left a gaping hole in the lineup, but the good news is that a spry newcomer has stepped up to the plate in its wake. Going by the name of “Holiday Nog” by Califia Farms, this rookie is a definite underdog, having appeared on the scene with little fanfare and almost no web presence. It doesn’t help matters that these shapely 48-ounce bottles are Whole Foods Market exclusives, severely limiting their availability across the country.
What the Holiday Nog lacks in distribution, it makes up for in innovation. The first almond-based nog on the market, it fills a niche previously untouched, meaning that those first punches land with great impact on the largely soy-based competitors. Touting itself as a lighter choice, it goes beyond the standard comparison to traditional eggnog, and goes straight for the kill, hitting where it hurts and boasting lower sugar content than any of the other commercial options out there. True to the claims, this milky elixir pours freely, approximately the same viscosity of standard almond milk. Fine for a solo sip, but that kind of thickness really can’t support an added splash of holiday “spirit”.
Without any detectable almond flavor, it was a brash, borderline harsh and definitely manufactured nutmeg note that dominated, storming in a bit too hard and heavy to really enjoy. The rookie must have tired itself out in that first barrage, because the sweetness struck me as rather lacking, too. Some will definitely appreciate this aspect, owing to a light hand on the organic cane sugar, but quite frankly, I wanted a treat that could stand up to the promise of eggnog, and this just wasn’t doing it. Sorry, sports fans, but this kid is down for the count, leaving So Delicious as the reining champ.
For you folks keeping score at home, that brings the final ranking, from most highly to least recommended, to…
Don’t let me tell you what to fill your mug with, though. Host you own nog-off at home and taste the options for yourself!
I’m giving away a $25 gift certificate for Whole Foods Market, furnished by the natural grocery giant itself, so that you can pick up a full complement of eggless nogs, or whatever else might bring you a bit of edible holiday cheer. All you need to do is be a resident of the US, and leave me a comment about your favorite commercial nog, homemade recipes, or what you like to make with your excess nog once the holidays are over. Make sure your name and email are both entered into the appropriate boxes so I know who to contact! The entry period will be open until Friday the 13th at Midnight EST, so start talking!
UPDATE: After consulting with my very favorite random number generator, together we determined that the winner of the gift card would be…
The owner of comment #40, otherwise known as sara!
If that wasn’t the result you were hoping for, don’t despair. You can still snap up a coupon good for 50 cents of off Califia Holiday Nog should you want to give it a try yourself. Stay tuned for more giveaways to come, too!
Considering how much I already enjoy rambling on about the weather, past, present, and future, I can only imagine what a hoot I’ll be by the time I’m 80 and mostly senile. Every conversation will begin and end with the forecast, as reliably timed as the news stations themselves. Who knows, maybe I just inadvertently stumbled upon a whole new gig for when I retire.
Regardless, it seems that everyone is gossiping about the atmospheric conditions lately. 50-degree days in late January, immediately followed by sleet, later to be washed away for another sunny afternoon? It’s the best sort of madness, removing the fangs from a brutal winter season while keeping things exciting. Scores of sunny days in a row make it seem like spring is just around the corner, and I can’t help but feel optimistic that we put the worst behind us way back in October. Unfortunately, the growing season is now lagging far behind my cravings for fresh produce.
Glistening red orbs of heirloom tomatoes taunt from pristine display towers, looking every bit as viable as the misshapen turnips and beets just down the aisle. Winter tomatoes, which sounds like the butt of a joke, tempt me like never before, and with the warmth of an unseasonably bright sun on my side, I can’t resist this time.
Condensing those savory fruits into a pure and fresh elixir seemed like the best approach, and nothing says “refreshing” quite like home-pressed juice. Inspired by the classic Bloody Mary, this virgin drink is not nearly so gruesome, and so much lighter and brighter than the original.
4 Large, Ripe Tomatoes
1 Ounce Fresh Parsley
1 Very Small Clove Garlic (Optional)
2 Stalks Celery
1 Medium Cucumber or 4 – 6 Big Leaves Romaine
1/4 Lemon, Seeded
1/2 Inch Fresh Ginger
1 Teaspoon Coconut Aminos or Braggs Liquid Aminos
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to Taste
If you have a juicer, simply run all of the veggies through skim off the foam. Stir in both aminos and pepper.
For those working with a blender, toss everything in, except for the lemon. Squeeze the juice from it first before discarding the rind. Turn it on high speed and process until completely smooth. Pass the liquid through a fine mesh strainer or nut milk bag and discard the solids.
Garnish with lemon slices, celery stalks, cucumber spears, or any sort of pickled veggies. Drink up!
For a Full-Blooded version, simply add 2 teaspoons light agave nectar and 1/4 cup (2 ounces) vodka.
Makes 2 Servings